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COMM 419H - World Media Systems Embedded Course Trip
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Noah Lingwall

Noah Lingwall

Paterno Fellow
Major: History and Global & International Studies
Minor: Spanish
Hometown: Tacoma, WA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about Dr. Anthony Olorunnisola's COMM 419H course and embedded trip component through a Schreyer Honors College listerv. I also attended one of Dr. Olorunnisola's information sessions to learn about the course, its requirements, and structure.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The COMM 419H South Africa trip focused on visiting and analyzing local media outlets in an effort to better compare U.S. and South African media systems. For example, we visited the Daily Sun, a prominent tabloid, and the Beeld, a more formal Afrikaner newspaper. The dichotomy between these two publications proved to be the most intriguing part of the trip. Daily Sun Editor-in-chief Reggy Moalusi served as our guide to explain the philosophy and inner mechanics of his tabloid. I listened to Mr. Moalusi describe his journalists’ rabid desire to uncover locally relevant “scoops” and observed the editing team select stories that amplify previously silenced voices. Later in the afternoon, we ascended a single flight of stairs and entered a whole new journalistic world. The Beeld, led by editor Adriaan Basson, was professional, crisp, and internationally focused. In many ways, it was nothing like the Daily Sun. However, as I listened the editors and observed their story selection process, I began to detect some commonalities between the two papers. Both editors appeared interested in pursuing advertising profits. Both editors sought human-interest stories to populate the pages of their paper.

"COMM 419H expanded my view of global media systems beyond mere theoretical models and offered a glimpse into how highly complex media systems function in the real world."

How did this experience impact you academically?

My trip revealed commonalities between the U.S. and South Africa in terms of both journalistic practices and societal characteristics. Both countries’ media systems frequently bypass journalistic integrity in favor of pursuing advertising profits. High income inequality within both nations also leads to media representation issues. My experience in South Africa taught me a great deal about the intimate relationship between a country’s government and its media system and complemented my global media interests. I was particularly intrigued by the Beeld’s adversarial stance in regard to South African President Jacob Zuma and the ANC. Do they challenge the ruling party as means to serve as a national watchdog? Or, do they challenge the black-led ruling party in an effort to pander to their overwhelmingly Afrikaner audience? I’m still unsure. Additionally, the unique relationships shared between the South African government and various media outlets revealed the way in which media outlets can distort, amplify, and support issues within the national discourse. COMM 419H expanded my view of global media systems beyond mere theoretical models and offered a glimpse into how highly complex media systems function in the real world.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

After graduation, I’d like to work at a think tank or within an international NGO. My experience in COMM 419H taught me that political realities often impede lofty development and/or democratization goals. In South Africa, I saw firsthand the way in which corrupt government officials use the media to strengthen their dysfunctional regimes. Getting a firsthand view of this reality helped prepare for me work in international realm, where political struggles are often highly entrenched and require extensive negotiation. As part of the trip, our class visited Media Monitoring Africa, a watchdog group that exposes media bias and demands governmental transparency. Getting to interact with individuals working for this group showed me an exciting prospective career path.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes. Dr. Olorunnisola structured his course such that the spring break trip supported material that we had learned earlier in the semester. I found that this arrangement allowed me to think critically about my experiences in South Africa throughout the remainder of the semester. Also, COMM 419H provided a glimpse into a subject area (international media) that isn't usually covered in communications courses. Though I'm not a communications major, COMM 419H taught lessons that enhanced my political and international interests.

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